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Altair: Investigation planned of ex-president’s complaints

John Seelmeyer

Altair Nanotechnologies of Reno says its audit committee will investigate complaints by its former president that press releases and other presentations by the company have deliberately misled investors.

The investigation has begun, Altair President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Gotcher said last week, although the audit committee hasn’t disclosed a schedule for its completion.

“Such an investigation is standard procedure in response to allegations of wrongdoing and … the mere fact that of an investigation does not reflect a determination by any person or committee that wrongdoing has occurred,” the company said in a statement.

Rudi Moerck, fired as Altair’s president in March, called for the company to hire an independent lawyer to investigate his complaints.

He said Chairman Jon Bengston, a member of the audit committee, may be too close to Altair’s management.

Other members of the audit committee are Altair directors George Hartman and Christopher Jones.

Moerck, who hadn’t been re-nominated to the Altair board before his term expired May 26, instead quit about a week ahead of time with a five-page letter detailing his complaints with the company’s management.

His biggest complaint: In a series of press releases this year,Altair has promoted its lithium battery technology with information that’s substantially overblown.

In a February press release, for instance, Altair described its battery technology as a “breakthrough” and “revolutionary.”Moerck contended, however, that the release “appears to be little more than a rehash of a release previously issued by the company on Nov.

1, 2001.” Responding in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission,Altair’s management said it stands by its claims for the battery material.

Moerck complained, too, that a press release in April appeared to be overblown when Altair said it inked a deal to develop technology with Advanced Battery Technologies.

ABAT, he said, is a tiny outfit previously known as Buyitcheap.com.

Altair said, however, that Advanced Battery Technologies employs 1,260 at a Chinese factory and has $29 million in backlogged orders.

Moerck said, too, that Altair appears to be distributing what he called “highly misleading information” and staged photographs in presentations posted on its Web site and distributed to securities brokers.

Before he was fired,Moerck urged the company to give up its work on batteries and fuel cells and instead focus on nanotechnologies applications in life sciences.

Researchers, he said,were discouraging about the potential market and time needed to develop the battery technology.

Altair’s management responded that it “remains optimistic about the near-term and long-term commercial opportunities for such materials.” The company’s executives said that the company remains in excellent financial shape with more than $30 million in cash.

They said Altair is making progress on six product groups, three in performance materials and three in life sciences.


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